Labor News

Belarus: Repression Against Independent Unions

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 08/06/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

Canada: Abandoned garment workers deserve justice from Nygard

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 08/04/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Toronto Star
Categories: Labor News

Dockers in Indonesia on Strike

Current News - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 12:08

Dockers in Indonesia on Strike
zoom
Image Courtesy: ITF

Dockers unions in Indonesia are striking and protesting as they want better working conditions, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) informed.

https://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/226533/dockers-in-indonesia-on-st...

Namely, Serikat Pekerja Jakarta International Container Terminal (SPJICT) will be striking from August 3 to 10 over “ruthless attacks” to workers’ rights – in particular to pension rights and performance bonuses – which terminal management has been pursuing in the course of negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement, according to ITF.

The union has been active at the largest container terminal at the Port of Tanjung Priok, Jakarta since 1999.

Jakarta International Container Terminal (JICT) has been run as a joint enterprise between Indonesian state-owned enterprise Pelindo II and global port operator Hutchison since 1999. JICT has just been granted an extension on its operating contract until 2039.

However, in June, Indonesia’s Audit Board (BPK) announced that the JICT extension was contrary to local laws and is actually depriving the local state of potential revenue.

The extension deal is now being probed by the Indonesian anti-corruption commission, Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK).

According to the union, management is using the port extension as a smoke-screen to extract more profit from the enterprise by crushing workers’ rights.

Nova Hakim, SPJICT Chair, has issued a call for solidarity, saying: “We urge our comrades in the ITF to support our strike in defense of our national asset, and in protecting the rights of our members. This port extension is robbing the Indonesian people, and we cannot stand idly by.”

“ITF dockers’ unions everywhere will be backing our Indonesian colleagues with lawful solidarity action and messages of support. They say that a fish rots from the head down and this wave of industrial action, coupled with other action at Tanjung Priok proves that something is seriously wrong with labour relations in at the port – something that the employers and government must remedy immediately,” Paddy Crumlin, ITF President and Dockers’ Section Chair, commented.

At the same time to the JICT action, dockworkers at ICTSI’s terminal at Tanjung Priok will escalate their own fight for justice to coincide with the start of the SJICT strike and take action to resist harsh management practices.

The workers’ union, the Federasi Serikat Buruh Transportasi dan Pelabuhan Indonesia (FBTPI) has announced it will hold a mass demonstration at the port on August 3 to demand that management end illegal outsourcing, pay unpaid overtime and settle a fair collective agreement with the union.

Tags: Indonesian Dockersstrikesworkers rights
Categories: Labor News

Ex-SF City Hall bigwigs sign on with Uber

Current News - Wed, 08/02/2017 - 09:09

Ex-SF City Hall bigwigs sign on with Uber
http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Ex-SF-City-Hall-bigwigs-sign-...

By Matier & RossAugust 2, 2017
<920x1240.jpg>Photo: Gene J. Puskar, Associated PressA self-driving Uber sits ready to take journalists for a ride during a media preview in Pittsburgh.

In a bid to smooth tensions over the ride-hailing giant’s rapid expansion on its hometown turf, Uber has brought on Tony Winnicker, one-time press secretary for Lee and former Mayor Gavin Newsom, as a communications consultant.Two top insiders in San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s administration have rolled through the revolving political door at City Hall and hopped on with Uber.

Winnicker was a key player in Lee’s administration, and periodically took leaves from his city job to run various ballot campaigns the mayor supported. He’ll be joined at Uber by Alex Randolph, a San Francisco Community College board member, former aide to ex-Supervisor Bevan Dufty and most recently government affairs manager at the Recreation and Park Department. At Uber, he’ll be Northern California public affairs manager.

Plus, expect a bigger role for David Noyola, a lobbyist who has been working for Uber since 2015, and who once served as a top aide to Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

“We are building a strong team with deep ties to the San Francisco community to strengthen partnerships in our hometown,” said Davis White, a spokesman for Uber.

Uber has been in the news frequently in recent months, often for the wrong reasons — most recently with the resignation of hard-charging chief executive Travis Kalanick, whose reign included not just phenomenal growth but also allegations of questionable business practices and rampant discrimination against women.

And it has no shortage of problems in its headquarters city. Supervisor Jane Kim has proposed charging Uber and other rail-hailing services a fee for every passenger pick-up. City Attorney Dennis Herrera has subpoenaed Uber and Lyft for data on whether they are abiding by laws covering accessibility for low-income and disabled riders, among other things.

The new hires aren’t the only sign that Uber is trying to make nicer with City Hall. It’s worth noting that no fewer than three company reps showed up last week at a Municipal Transportation Agency meeting on curb congestion — something the ride company simply might have blown off in the past.

San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross appear Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. Matier can be seen on the KPIX TV morning and evening news. He can also be heard on KCBS radio Monday through Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Got a tip? Call (415) 777-8815, or email matierandross@sfchronicle.com. Twitter: @matierandross

Tags: Uberprivatizationderegulationunion busting
Categories: Labor News

UK: ‘Some days I feel like I’ll drop dead’ – Britain’s biggest cleaners’ strike

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 08/01/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Guardian
Categories: Labor News

Peru: Thousands of Teachers March on Lima as Strike Continues

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 08/01/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: TeleSUR
Categories: Labor News

Iran: Esmail Abdi, unionist rearrested one month after release

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 07/31/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Education International
Categories: Labor News

West Coast Longshore Workers Approve Contract Extension to 2022 By 67%

Current News - Sat, 07/29/2017 - 13:12

West Coast Longshore Workers Approve Contract Extension to 2022 By 67%
https://www.apparelnews.net/news/2017/jul/28/west-coast-longshore-worker...

By Deborah Belgum | Friday, July 28, 2017

It looks like it will be all quiet on the waterfront for the next couple of years.

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union approved a three-year extension to their five-year contract with the Pacific Maritime Association, which means their contract won’t expire until July 1, 2022.

Early reporting from voting union workers show that 67 percent approve of the change, the ILWU said. Final results will be announced on Aug. 4.

The contract covers some 20,000 full-time and part-time ILWU employees who work at 29 ports from San Diego to Bellingham, Wash. It is the first contract extension of its kind in ILWU history.

“There was no shortage of differing views during the year-long debate leading up to this vote, and members didn’t take this step lightly,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath in a statement.

Extending the labor contract was a topic that has been bandied about since the beginning of 2016 and came after West Coast ports were crippled with a labor slowdown and a chassis shortage during the 2015/2016 holiday season. The paralysis at the ports led to importers, manufacturers and retailers losing millions of dollars in sales during the crucial holiday season, which accounts for 20 percent to 30 percent of retailers’ annual sales.

The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents the port terminal operators and shipping lines that hire the longshore workers, said that it proposed talks on a contract extension to provide stability at West Coast ports.

“With this contract extension, the West Coast waterfront has a tremendous opportunity to attract more market share and demonstrate that our ports and our workforce are truly world-class. We are fully committed to delivering the highest standards of reliability and productivity for years to come, said PMA President James McKenna.

Under the extended contract, workers will see a 3.1 percent-per-year wage increase from 2019 to 2022, taking their base rate of pay from $42.18 an hour to $46.23 by 2022.

Longshore workers would be eligible to retire early during the three-year contract extension. Instead of a minimum retirement age of 62, they could retire at 59.5 without an early-retirement discount. Workers would be eligible to retire after 13 years of employment.

No change would be made to the ILWU’s topnotch health plan, meaning workers don’t pay monthly premiums, only make a $1 co-pay for prescriptions and have limited deductibles. Employers would also make additional contributions to workers’ pension plans.

West Coast ports and longshore workers are following in the footsteps of similar actions taken by East Coast and Gulf Coast ports and the International Longshoremen’s Association to extend their labor contract that was scheduled to expire Sept. 30, 2018

Tags: ilwuContract Extension8 year contract
Categories: Labor News

US Airline Bosses For Greater Profits Push Shrinking Seats Threatening Health and Safety

Current News - Fri, 07/28/2017 - 22:46

US Airline Bosses For Greater Profits Push Shrinking Seats Threatening Health and Safety
'Incredible shrinking airline seat': US court says seat size a safety issue
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jul/29/incredible-shrinking-ai...

Passenger group challenged Federal Aviation Administration after agency rejected request for rules on seat size and distance between rows
The Flyers Rights passenger group says small seats bunched too close together slow down emergency evacuations.
The Flyers Rights passenger group says small seats bunched too close together slow down emergency evacuations. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images
Associated Press
Saturday 29 July 2017 01.02 EDTLast modified on Saturday 29 July 2017 01.03 EDT
A US appeals court panel has said that federal officials must reconsider their decision not to regulate the size of airline seats as a safety issue.

In a ruling on Friday, one of the judges called it “the case of the incredible shrinking airline seat”.

The Flyers Rights passenger group challenged the Federal Aviation Administration in court after the agency rejected its request to write rules governing seat size and the distance between rows of seats.

New York senator calls for FAA action over 'shrinkage' of airplane seats
Read more
A three-judge panel for the federal appeals court in Washington said the FAA had relied on outdated or irrelevant tests and studies before deciding that seat spacing was a matter of comfort, not safety.

The judges sent the issue back to the FAA and said the agency must come up with a better-reasoned response to the group’s safety concerns.

“We applaud the court’s decision, and the path to larger seats has suddenly become a bit wider,” said Kendall Creighton, a spokeswoman for Flyers Rights.

The passenger group says small seats bunched too close together slow down emergency evacuations and raise the danger of travellers developing vein clots.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said the agency was considering the ruling and its next steps. He said the FAA considers the spacing between seat rows when testing to make sure airliners can be evacuated safely.

United Airlines considers shrinking width of seats, report says
Read more
The airline industry has long opposed the regulation of seat size. Its main US trade group, Airlines for America, declined to comment on the ruling.

Airlines have steadily reduced the space between rows to squeeze in extra seats and make more money. On discount carrier Spirit Airlines, the distance between the headrest of one seat and that of the seat in front of it a distance called “pitch” is 28 inches (71cm), which, after accounting for the seat itself, leaves little legroom for the average passenger.

This year, news leaked that American Airlines planned to order new Boeing 737 jets with just 29 inches (74cm) of pitch in the last three rows to make room for an extra row of premium-priced seats toward the front of the plane.

American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker said on Friday that after objections from customers and flight attendants, the airline backed off. Those rows will have 30 inches (76cm) of pitch, which is still a tighter fit than the airline’s current planes.

Flyers Rights said the average seat has become narrower too, shrinking from 18.5 inches (47cm) a decade ago to about 17 inches (43cm). The group got the judges’ attention.

“This is the case of the incredible shrinking airline seat,” Judge Patricia Millett wrote in her ruling. “As many have no doubt noticed, aircraft seats and the spacing between them have been getting smaller and smaller, while American passengers have been growing in size.”

The issue could wind up in Congress. Some lawmakers have proposed legislation to regulate seat size.

Tags: health and safetyairline seatsderegulation
Categories: Labor News

North America: USW Promises to Continue Solidarity on 10th Anniversary of Mineros Strike

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 07/28/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: New Kerala
Categories: Labor News

Australia: Why the Great Strike of 1917 still matters

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 07/27/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ABC
Categories: Labor News

Strike in the port of Koper

Current News - Wed, 07/26/2017 - 20:04

Strike in the port of Koper
http://libcom.org/blog/strike-port-koper-24072016

Report on strike in the port of Koper, Slovenia in summer 2016, which affected the supply chain in central Europe - published originally in German in issue no.100 of Wildcat.

The Slovenian government is trying to contain increasing state debt – from 22 percent of the GDP in 2008 to 83 percent in 2015 – with privatisations. On the European level the rulers want to deregulate the ports with new law packages (Port Package). This means that the government and the EU attack the relative protected workers in the semi state-owned enterprises – one of these is the port of Koper, which is 67 percent state-owned. Container handling and profit have continuously increased in the last years, new piers were constructed, new cranes were bought, the basin was dredged; new railways and hinterland terminals are being planned. Since 2011 the port is the most important one for Austrian industry, its volume almost doubling from 2006 to 2014. Koper is the biggest port in the North Adriatic Ports Association (NAPA: Koper, Ravenna, Venetia, Triest, Rijeka). Already in 2011 the workers organized a wildcat strike and were able to win improvements (see Wildcat 94). In July 2016 they struck again to prevent the sellout of the port – and they won. There wasn't a single word about it in the German-language media.

Relative workers control

One peculiarity at the port is that the workers – at the head of which are the crane operators, organized into an »anarchist rank-and-file union« 1 – have achieved representation on the supervisory board (three out of nine heads) and on the management board (one out of four) of the operating company Luka Koper Inc. They have, de facto, a say about who will be CEO and what decisions can be made. There have been three CEOs in the past three years – the current one is a thorn in the government's side, because he rejects privatisation.

Since the summer of 2013 the government has tried every trick in the book to privatize the port and to wrest from the workers their control over cash flows and investments. In the past three years there have been substantial wage increases because the workers know the finances. Today, crane operators working without nightshifts and weekends earn as much money in one month as they did in 2013 with those shifts – about 1,500 Euros net – this is almost twice as much as a Slovenian worker's average wage.

Additionally, privatization would mean that a Port Authority would be installed, which has the total control over managing the concessions of the piers/terminals. The concessions would be sold to different enterprises which then operate the terminal, so that the workers in the same port would be employed by different enterprises, introducing separations and setting up in-house competition. Today that's common practice in every »modern« port.

Till now this has been blocked with the model of the supervisory and management board. »We are one staff,« a crane operator says, who is in the supervisory board. But even without the Port Authority there are separations: there are already 40 active subcontractors, and crane operators earn more than other workers.

Koper Leaks

At the end of June 2016 the Slovenian infrastructure minister sent an e-mail to the national holding, in which he explained that he wants to »improve« the supervisory board and install a new port administration. The contract with Luka Koper Inc. should be »revised« and a second operational company should be established. In our language: »If the current management structure is disempowered, we can finally privatize the port.«

This writing was leaked, and the workers got their hands on it. Though it only contained what the workers had suspected for a year and a half. The e-mail was not decisive for the strike, the crane operator assured us. What was crucial was the annual general assembly of the Luka Koper Inc. shareholders on July 1.

Just before, workers and solidarity groups had organized a demonstration in Koper on June 28, in which minority shareholders participated – citizens, workers, etc. – who own 33 percent of the shares and are affiliated in an association (Vseslovensko Združenje Malih Delničarjev, VZMD, Panslovenian Investors and Shareholders Association; one can find nationalists in it, too!). Port workers, minority shareholders and women from different organisations and from other enterprises spoke. Four thousand people marched through the city (Koper has 25,000 inhabitants). Speeches at the demonstration had to do with the catastrophic effects of privatisation and about the corruption of the Slovenian government.

Stavka! (Slo. »strike«)

In fact, one group of port workers only wanted to block the shareholders meeting, but police prevented that – so they decided to block the port. The crane operator artfully says that this happened totally spontaneously: »Suddenly everybody downed tools, the office workers, too, and met at the gates.« In the end there were about 800 people assembled. The workers blocked the port entrance, so that no scabs were able to enter. The only cargo loaded was perishables. Everything else – iron ore for Austrian steel mills, timber for Styrian paper mills, cars of every brand for import/export, containers with consumer goods for Europe, etc. – went unhandled. By July 2, 40 trains to the hinterland were backed up; six couldn't even leave the port. Railway operators moaned about a loss of 700,000 Euros a day, but the crane operator says it was part of the negative media-campaign. A worker from the Cargo Center Graz reports that the number of incoming containers decreased dramatically in a very short time (with 16 weekly connections, the CCG is the most important hinterland-terminal of the port).

The crane operator says: »The carriers are under extreme pressure – with global decreasing volumes it is very important to be faster than everyone else; the best way in Europe is using the port of Koper, because one saves two to three days in one direction and a lot of money compared to Hamburg.«

Besides the cancellation of the planned changes in the management structure, the port workers demand the resignation of the infrastructure minister and of a secretary of the ministry of finance. They directed their demands to the Slovenian prime minister Miro Cerar, with whom they wanted to meet. He appeased them at first. It wasn't acceptable that workers would dictate anything to his government »from the streets«. Bourgeois media ran the usual defamation campaign: »terrorists«, blah, blah, blah… Against this, many friends and family members, even children of the workers, came out, joining the workers at the gates. On Sunday, July 3, there were about 1,500 people protesting in front of the port.

After only the first couple of hours of the strike on July 1, the shareholders decided to cancel the layoff of the three worker-friendly supervisory board members – instead the head of the state holding resigned. Nevertheless the workers continued striking till the early shift on July 4 in order to maintain their demands that the government members resign and that they get a meeting with Cerar. On July 5–6 the workers ran only one shift (out of the normal three) per day.

On July 6 the prime minister decided that he wanted to meet with the workers after all – this time his defense was that nobody wanted to privatize the port and that the workers had obviously been lied to. The workers listened to the prime minister, and came to the conclusion that he had no clue. They explained the situation to him and demanded commitment. Afterward, they went back to normal operations because their main goal – the cancellation of the plans of the national holding – has been reached. On the July 13 the minister of finance and his state secretary resigned. »Now we just need to run off the infrastructure minister too,« the crane operator proclaims confidently.

Self-organised workers are powerful

Unfortunately there were nationalists in the mix in the days of protests and striking – poison for every workers' struggle. Everywhere in Europe one can see what harm this does. Particularly in the southeastern European states, protests have developed strength only if they were explicitly anti-nationalist.

During the strike there was a solidarity slowdown in the neighboring Italian port of Triest, where workers took one-and-a-half days to unload ships instead of a half-day. From the neighboring Croatian port of Rijeka came one of many solidarity letters – that port is already privatized. Workers in Koper said Rijeka workers should also write to the Slovenian government (these three ports are historically linked by experiences of struggle: there was a »parallel choreography of worker unrest« from 1966 to 1971 2).

People from all over the region understand that it's only going to go well for them if it goes well for the workers. That's why a lot of people express their solidarity. The struggle represents their common interests.

The attack of the rulers has failed for now. The workers were able to maintain their status quo advantage. They show how strong a workforce that is self-organized and that sticks together can be.

The rulers will try to learn from their failure. They have to keep an eye out, so that there are no more uprisings like in 2012/13, or in Bosnia in 2014. 3 In any case, the port workers of Koper will walk very self-confidently into future conflicts.

Post scriptum:

In the middle of July, carrier websites report that COSCO was able to successfully bypass a strike of Greek railway workers who carry commodities from the port of Piräus to the hinterland – they redirected their vessels to Koper. SMS from the crane operator: »I will check for COSCO. The problem is that Koper uses our port pretty regularly anyway. I'll see whether anything changes.«

Footnotes:

[1] The Sindikat Žerjavistov Pomorskih Dejavnosti, i. e., the union of crane and seafaring activities, has organized about 220 crane-operators. The union has about 390 members out of 840 directly employed by Luka Koper AG. Including its subsidiary enterprises there are 1,150 people. Another 500 work in all the sub-firms (temp agencies, etc.). One old union, which is, however, almost entirely inactive, remains, and it has fewer than 60 members. Ten women are members of the Anarcho-union, and generally women work only in the offices at the port.

[2] Sabine Rutar, of the Regensburger Institute for East and Southeast European Research, delivers a nice description of these strikes in »Epistemological Limits and European Contemporary History with Examples From the Northeastern Adriatic,« in: Europa Regional 22.2014 (2015), 3-4, p. 192-206 (German).

[3] See:
in English:
Slovenia: The end of transition, autumn 2013
in German:
Wildcat 96: Aufstand in Bosnien, Frühling 2014
Wildcat 94: Slowenien: Das Ende der Transformation, Frühjahr 2013 (mit Update vom 2.11.13 zu den Kämpfen auf dem Balkan).

Tags: Port of KoperSlovenian Portdockers
Categories: Labor News

Kazakhstan: Sentencing of Union Leader a Travesty of Justice

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 07/26/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

Saudi Arabia: International effort to avert executions of peaceful protesters

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 07/26/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Education International
Categories: Labor News

Kazakhstan: Sentencing of Union Leader a Travesty of Justice

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 07/26/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

Global: International solidarity has the power to reform the banking industry

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 07/26/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: UNI Global Union
Categories: Labor News

Senator Backed by Rail Companies Introduces New Bill That Would De-Regulate Rail Industry

Current News - Wed, 07/26/2017 - 08:18

Senator Backed by Rail Companies Introduces New Bill That Would De-Regulate Rail Industry
Now, with over 100 years of history showing the rail industry's refusal to implement safety measures until enough people have died, the industry is again pushing to regulate itself in order to avoid proven safety technologies for the sake of “keep[ing] more of their profits.” Congress and the anti-regulatory officials now in the Trump administration are working hard to allow this to happen.

https://www.desmogblog.com/2017/07/25/senator-backed-rail-companies-intr...
By Justin Mikulka • Tuesday, July 25, 2017 - 12:06

A new bill by one of the rail industry’s favorite senators looks to change how the industry is regulated to allow “market forces to improve rail safety.” In June, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who happens to chair the Senate Surface Transportation Subcommittee, introduced the Railroad Advancement of Innovation and Leadership with Safety (RAILS) Act.

In essence, the bill seeks to shift the rail industry toward a self-regulatory — and more difficult to enforce — approach to safety known as “performance-based regulation,” an effort first reported by DeSmog after a Congressional hearing in May.

In that hearing, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) advocated for performance-based regulations for safety, saying that government should “allow the railroad industry to keep more of their profits.” That's what you should expect when moving to a system relying on market forces to improve safety.

Speaking of market forces, it should come as no surprise that the top donor to Senator Fischer’s election campaigns is rail company Union Pacific. Or that four of her top eleven donors are rail companies, which include Berkshire Hathaway (owner of rail company BNSF), Norfolk Southern, and CSX.

That helps explain why she is pushing to allow the industry to self-regulate via performance-based regulations. Even in a pro-industry opinion piece in the publication RailwayAge, written by a former employee of rail lobbying group, the Association of American Railroads, it wasn’t possible to sell the bill without noting that it allows industry to regulate itself:

“…performance-based safety standards mean rather than the [Federal Railroad Administration] prescribing particular actions, such as mileage-based brake tests and specific operations and maintenance procedures, the agency would specify a safety outcome — such as a maximum accident-type rate or component failure rate — and allow each railroad to devise its own cost-effective means of achieving that target.”

What could go wrong if you allow each railroad to devise its own cost-effective means of achieving safety? Let’s take a look at Exhibit A: Lac-Mégantic.

Lac-Mégantic: When 'Market Forces' Regulate Safety

Shortly after the deadly oil-by-rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Canada, a columnist at The Guardian stated, “the explosion in Lac-Mégantic is not merely a tragedy. It is a corporate crime scene.” There is a mountain of evidence to prove how corporate cost-cutting caused the July 2013 accident in the small Quebec town.

The fire on the locomotive that started the whole deadly chain of events was the result of cutting costs for engine repair. A report from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada stated that “This temporary repair had been performed using a polymeric material, which did not have the strength and durability required for this use.” That was the first mistake due to cost-cutting shortcuts.

The company operating that oil train had also been allowed to run the trains with a single person crew. Another cost-saving measure that railroad labor unions oppose and one that the rail industry in America is lobbying hard to make standard.

And then there was the corporate policy of not using all of the braking systems in order to save time, which we wrote about on DeSmog last year:

What has been overlooked is the corporate policy of not engaging the “automatic brake” when leaving a train on the tracks. Harding [train engineer] set the independent brake and handbrakes but did not set the automatic brake because that was corporate policy.

The brakes he did apply were sufficient to hold the train. But then the locomotive caught fire that night and the fire department cut power to the locomotive, which led to the loss of pressure in the independent brake and the train “running away” down the hill towards Lac-Mégantic.

It would have taken Harding 10 seconds to engage the automatic brake. If this had been done, the train most likely would have remained in place until it was scheduled to continue the next morning. But company policy was to not engage the automatic brake even when parking a loaded train of explosive Bakken oil on a hill above a town. Why not?

Because while it only takes 10 seconds to engage the braking system, it takes between 15 minutes to an hour to disengage the system when the train is restarted the next day. And in the rail industry, time is money.

This is what happens when market forces drive safety precautions. And that is why it is accurate to describe Lac-Mégantic as a corporate crime scene.

'Sound Science' and ECP Braking

The new bill from Sen. Fischer include the section “Sound Science,” which requires that regulations be based on things like “appropriately validated models and formulas.” It does not mention how one goes about “appropriately” validating models and formulas.

This approach of claiming that safety regulations aren’t based on sound science or that the “science is still out” has already proven to be a very effective approach for delaying further safety measures for the rail and oil industries. It has been the main argument allowing the oil industry to continue to transportvia train a dangerous and volatile oil that could easily be stabilized and made safer to ship.

In the RailwayAge opinion piece supporting Fischer's industry-friendly bill, it notes that the industry is particularly interested in rolling back the requirement to have electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes on oil trains, saying this regulation was “troubling to railroads and the scientific community.”

When DeSmog asked RailwayAge to provide evidence that the scientific community found the regulations requiring ECPbraking “troubling,” the author of the piece — former Association of American Railroads (AAR) employee Frank Wilner — directed DeSmog to the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. According to its website this organization is “a wholly owned subsidiary of the Association of American Railroads.”

So, scientists on the payroll of the rail industry’s main lobbying group find a proven safety technology “troubling.” What should be more troubling to anyone concerned about rail safety is a bill introduced by a senator taking large amounts of money from the rail industry, a bill which is then promoted by not only the industry's lobbying group but also a former lobbying group employee, claiming in an industry trade magazine that industry-paid scientists are the final word on safety.

As repeatedly noted on DeSmog, there is ample evidence that ECP brakes are safer.

But perhaps the strongest argument for ECP brakes is that they are required on trains hauling nuclear waste. Why would this be required if these brakes offer no safety benefits? In 2004, the AAR gave a presentation on why trains should be allowed to move spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and clearly noted that ECP brakes were important for safety. Yet 13 years later, this group is purporting that it is an unproven technology.

And that's not all. There's evidence that ECP brakes would have prevented the Lac-Mégantic disaster.

Performance-Based Regulation or Profit-Based Regulation?

“Railroad rules have been written in blood.” This line comes from the annual report of the Commissioner of Railroads for the state of Michigan — in 1901. It implied that safety rules were only implemented when enough blood had been spilled.

One hundred and fifteen years later, in an opinion piece on rail safety for CNN, rail expert Fred Failey essentially said the same thing, opening his piece with the statement, “The rules by which trains operate on American railroads were written in blood.”

Now, with over 100 years of history showing the rail industry's refusal to implement safety measures until enough people have died, the industry is again pushing to regulate itself in order to avoid proven safety technologies for the sake of “keep[ing] more of their profits.” Congress and the anti-regulatory officials now in the Trump administration are working hard to allow this to happen.

The only performance that will improve when implementing performance-based regulations is the performance of railroad stock prices and the fundraising efforts of politicians like Sen. Deb Fischer.

Tags: Rail safetyderegulationrail bossesunion bustingprofits
Categories: Labor News

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